Criminal investigation into Sen. Bob Menendez expands with new subpoenas

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Another round of federal grand jury subpoenas went out this week in connection with the corruption investigation into Democratic Sen. Bob Menendez of New Jersey.

Two sources familiar with the matter said at least one powerful New Jersey politician — North Bergen Mayor Nicholas Sacco — was among those who received subpoenas.

A North Bergen spokesman said, “As they always have, Mayor Sacco and the Township of North Bergen will comply with any inquiry they receive from law enforcement and will cooperate fully.”

For months, Menendez has been under criminal investigation into whether he and his wife improperly took cash and gifts from the owners of IS EG Halal, an Edgewater halal meat business.

Menendez and the company’s owners have denied any wrongdoing.

“I know of an investigation. Don’t know the scope or the subjects and of course stand ready to help authorities when and if they ask any questions,” Menendez said in October.

A Menendez spokesman declined to comment.

The newly issued subpoenas — including the one delivered to Sacco — are unrelated to any allegations involving the meat company, the two sources said.

The sources added that the subpoenas in part seek information about certain legislative changes in New Jersey but are still part of the overall investigation focused on Menendez.

The subpoena for Sacco, a Democrat, was issued Wednesday, a day after he was re-elected mayor.

“On Wednesday morning Mayor Sacco was issued a subpoena seeking information and records regarding several different matters that he was informed are being sought in connection to an ongoing investigation that is not related to him,” a spokesman for the mayor said in a statement Friday.

“Mayor Sacco has been assured that he is not a target of the investigation and was approached only as a potential witness, and he intends to cooperate fully and provide any requested information as he would with any law enforcement inquiry,” the spokesman added.

An FBI spokesman and a spokesman for U.S. Attorney Damian Williams of Southern New York, whose office is leading the federal investigation, declined to comment.

As for Menendez and IS EG Halal, questions persist about how the company won an exclusive worldwide contract with Egypt to certify halal exports — as numerous other firms’ contracts were suddenly canceled in 2019.

Numerous other sources familiar with the matter said some officials at the U.S. Agriculture Department were among those who raised concerns about how the contract was awarded to a New Jersey firm with little experience.

An Agriculture Department did not return calls for comment.

In addition, numerous sources said Menendez’s wife is friends with IS EG’s owners. Menendez chairs the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, which oversees billions of dollars in U.S. aid to Egypt.

Lawyers for IS EG have denied any wrongdoing, and the owners have said they won the contract with Egypt on the merits. Other firms in the industry, however, have been raising questions.

“This was an unfortunate decision as all of us certifiers lost our authorizations to provide Halal certification for Egypt. This had a severe impact on the industry,” the USA Halal Chamber of Commerce said in a statement.

Menendez said last month he was opening a legal defense fund to help pay lawyers in connection with the criminal investigation.

In 2015, Menendez was indicted on federal corruption charges of illegally accepting favors from a Florida eye doctor, including flights on a private jet, three nights at a five-star hotel in Paris and more than $700,000 in political contributions for him and the Democratic Party.

The case ended in a mistrial after jurors were unable to reach a unanimous verdict. Federal prosecutors decided not to retry him.

Menendez, who has been in the Senate since 2006, is up for re-election next year.

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